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Relapse, Lakota, Bristol 10/10/09

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Image by Liz Gauntlett

Looking at Bristol in the early-to-mid 90s from the outside you would have seen two main musical strands – the remnants of the Massive Attack axis and the emergent drum-and-bass empire of Mercury Prize winning Roni Size. What this outsiders view would have missed was a huge, pulsating, free party techno scene, which drew revellers from all over the South-West, Wales and the Midlands. Growing out of trance and progressive house club nights, squat parties in basements and random do’s in weird venues like Easton Community Centre, and with strong links to traveller culture, this grimy underground scene flew below the radar and was happy with this state of affairs. Free parties in abandoned warehouses across Bristol’s recession-hit industrial estates, and across the hillsides and beaches of Wales and the West Country, created a strong community of ravers that looked on each other as family. It was a scene that was (mostly) fluffy as fuck, but with a hard, punky, political edge, reclaiming the streets and raising money for good causes along the way.

When a reunion clubnight was first mooted there were worries that it could descend into being the equivalent of a 70’s weekend at Butlins, but with UV clothes and 303 acidlines replacing white flares and Abba. These fears were, as 800 people found out at Lakota last weekend, totally unfounded. ‘Relapse’ was an almost unqualified success. It turns out that aging, parenting, working and surviving has not taken away the free party crews ability to fill a space with lights, inflatables and banging techno, and to dance until they drop.

DJs from a multitude of parties from back in the day – Shimmy, Mutts Nutts, Resistrance, and Freakency, among others – churned out three relentless rooms of techno, ranging from big, trance-techno-acid anthems in the main room, slower but chunkier Detroit-style techno in another and the third full of filthy sounds and flying acid lines. Punters came together from all over, spent a few minutes telling people they loved but hadn’t seen for a decade that ‘This is a bit weird’, then got down and fucking had it. Everyone danced, everywhere – every corner, every balcony, every alcove. Even the older gentleman sat next the speaker got up from his chair every now and again, put his hands behind his back and peered round at the DJ to nod his approval at the pounding 150bpm drum patterns and the stomach churning, ear-splitting basslines. You know it’s a good night when the security guy stood next the dancefloor spends all night grinning and boinging from foot to foot.

Any clubnight that is full of smiling people must be considered a success. For a clubnight that was dragged together just for the love of it, mostly by word of mouth, to be full of people smiling quite that much was an utter triumph. There’s talk of doing another one next year. Hopefully my aching, aging bones will have recovered from the stomping by then, because I won’t miss it for the world. See you by the speakers!

Words: Trousers
October 2009